How to select the right pasture?
The composition of pastures varies considerably. It is important for graziers to have a clear idea of what they expect from their pastures and choose plant species that have the capacity to fulfil your livestock grazing requirements. Selecting the right pasture mix for your livestock is important to maximise the productivity and profitability of your farm. Here in Progressive Seeds, we will help you in selecting the most suited pastures for your livestock.
Here’s a list of some of the seeds we have available for order:
Ryegrass is a lush, desirable, cool season pasture for horses. It requires high rainfall or irrigation, good soil fertility, and good grazing management to persist.
The ryegrass endophyte (Neotyphodium lolii) is not present in Italian ryegrass.
Kikuyu is the most common coastal New South Wales (NSW) horse pasture because of its ability to persist. It contains an oxalate that inhibits the uptake of calcium. This deficiency can be overcome by supplementary feeding a calcium supplement (see below) or by overseeding ryegrass and clover into the kikuyu in autumn.
Several livestock disorders are occasionally reported. Lush growth associated with excessive application of nitrogen can result in nitrate poisoning and even bloat, although the latter is rare. Hyperparathyroidism (‘big head’) in horses, and occasionally nephrosis or hypocalcaemia in ruminants, has been recorded due to high levels of oxalate (up to 1.1% DM). Kikuyu poisoning occurs sporadically in cattle, especially where rapid growth follows a protracted dry period. It occurs only in cattle, affecting all classes and ages. Serious toxicity occurs spasmodically after rainfall, fertiliser application and invasion of pasture by army-worms.
Couch grass has often been regarded as a weed. It is very acceptable to horses, very hardy and capable of tolerating high stocking rates on poorer sandy soils.
No toxicity has been reported.
In terms of keeping your horses healthy, the make-up of Rhodes grass is perfect. It packs a nutritional punch, and is both high in calcium and low in oxalates.
Oxalates, prevalent in many pastures, inhibit the uptake of calcium to the animal by chemically ‘tying up’ the mineral. While cows and sheep have their multiple stomachs that can eventually extract the minerals, horses only have one stomach, and cannot get the required minerals out if the grass isn’t very nutritional. By having a high calcium and low oxalate ratio, you’re ensuring your horses have the best chance to be happy and healthy.
Some native species, such as Queensland bluegrass, are ideal for horses. Hay and grain concentrates are normally fed whenever paddock feed is short, pastures are frosted or when animals are preparing for high performance activities. Establishes relatively easily on heavy cracking-clay Very palatable to livestock.
It has no known toxic effects.
Bluegrasses are terrific as companion grasses. Creeping Bluegrass has the added advantage of being able to spread super effectively, and regrow quickly.
Creeping bluegrass can spread in undisturbed situations, because of its adaptation to low fertility soils and heavy grazing. It also spreads by runners (stolons) and seed, with the fluffy seeds sticking to livestock or blown by the wind.
It is low in oxalate, so will not cause big head in horses. No other problems have been recorded.
Bambatsi is the common name of all commercial seed (once known as Makarikari grass). One of the good pastures for livestock. It is a perennial summer-growing grass well adapted to the heavy-cracking clay soils of the Darling Downs, Western Downs and the Maranoa. Bambatsi tolerates drought, frost, waterlogging and saline soil. It is unsuited to the sandy and loamy soil of lower fertility soils.
Photosensitisation has occurred in sheep, goats, cattle and horses grazing Bambatsi panic pastures, but the condition is rare; sheep are the most vulnerable with lambs in stressed condition e.g. after shearing, trucking, that are placed on early regrowth following dry conditions, the most at risk; this toxicity disrupts liver function and lamb deaths have been recorded.
Buffel grass is a hardy, drought-tolerant perennial that grows on a variety of soils including brigalow and gidyea country. One of the ideal pastures for livestock. It is sensitive to waterlogging. Buffel grass has low sodium levels but moderately high oxalate content, which can lead to ‘big head’ in horses.
Buffel grass seed is spread by wind, water and grazing livestock, more readily on soils with a friable surface. Spread is extremely slow on soils with a hard-setting surface, and in more acid soils.
Soluble oxalate levels of 1 – 2% in the DM of the plant can cause ‘big head’ in horses and oxalate poisoning in young or hungry sheep. However, at these levels there is rarely a problem with mature ruminants.
Leucaena is a deep-rooted perennial shrub legume that provides high weight gain in livestock, producing new green leaf after shallow-rooted grasses have died off. It performs best in tropical climates (with annual average rainfall above 600mm), but does not grow when the average daily temperature falls below 15 degrees Celsius.
The alkaloid, mimosine, is high in young vigorous growth of leucaena. It can cause hair loss in non-ruminants, and reduced productivity in ruminants if leucaena comprises more than about 30% of the animal’s diet. In such cases, it is best to drench 10 – 20% of the herd with rumen fluid containing the detoxifying bacterium (Synergistes jonesii). The bacteria then spread quickly to other animals in the herd. A few inoculated cattle should be retained in the leucaena paddock to pass the bacterium on to new stock entering the paddock.
Desmanthus is a productive, drought-tolerant perennial legume. It is very palatable and good pasture for livestock, has a high digestibility and protein content, does not cause bloat and has persisted for more than 20 years when successfully established in grass pastures. It is defoliated by heavy frosts but will regrow from crowns after good rain in early spring. Its main role will be to improve native and sown pasture. While performing well in trials, it has yet to realise its commercial potential.
Unlike other tropical legumes currently available to livestock producers for sowing in heavy soils, desmanthus is well suited for use in extensive grazing areas of native and sown grasses.
Lablab is a high yielding forage legume sown for grazing, forage conservation and as a break crop in sub-tropical and tropical farming systems. It is commonly used in mixed cropping-livestock systems in northern Australia and as a legume ley in sugar cane systems to address soil fertility decline.
Some plants are toxic and should be best avoided in order to create perfect pastures for livestock.
Photodynamic pigments are the pigments in all varieties of rye-grass, clovers, lucerne, St John’s Wort, Buttercup, plantain, parsley which make them the very dark green colour. These pigments fluoresce, are activated by light, and are known to cause photophobia and photosensitisation. This is the true cause of ‘mud-fever’, ‘sunburn’ and I believe head-flicking/shaking syndrome. When you remove these plants from the horse’s diet these conditions go away.
Mineral imbalance. Rye-grass likes a slightly acid soil (5.8) So do all sorts of fungi. The more acid your soil, the more fungi in and around the base of the plants, such as facial ecsma spores, aspergillus, rust moulds and hundreds more. Then when the grass grows quickly, which is often in our climate especially when nitrogen or super is applied, it tends to leave behind the minerals. When you realise what a huge requirement horses have for minerals like calcium/magnesium just to run their large muscles, their brain and their nervous and circulatory systems, you will go to great lengths to ensure your horse doesn’t lack a molecule! It is a waste of money and counter-productive to feed separate minerals in isolation. Whilst you think you are fixing one problem you will be creating another imbalance. Feed mixes that supply everything in the correct balance.
Fructans. Whilst clovers and lucerne store their sugars as starch which is easily digestible, all varieties of rye-grass store their sugars as fructans which horses cannot digest. When fructans reach the hind-gut the streptococcus bacteria have a feast, immediately proliferate and devastate the good flora, cause sloppy manures, metabolic chaos and trigger laminitis.
Excess carbohydrate. Rye/clover pastures are selected for rapid weight gain and milk production in livestock. The exact opposite of what we want for our horses! Rye/clovers are very high in NSC’s (non-structural carbohydrate or sugars) and when kept at a young stage of growth by grazing they are also low in fibre.
Phyto-oestrogens. Clovers especially red clover and sub-terranian clover contain phyto-oestrogens which interfere with hormones and reproduction. These can turn mares into nymphomaniacs and geldings into stallions! They also increase the number of services to conceive. There are way safer grasses to feed your horses. If possible change to cocksfoot, brown-top, any of the Poa’s, silver tussock, Yorkshire fog, prairie, or timothy and enjoy horses that are ‘good to go’ all year round!
Kikuyu may harbour mycotoxins and is also an oxalate grass so best avoided totally.
Those little black sticky things are the Ergot of the fungus “Claviceps Paspali”. They are common on the seed heads of paspalum and cause central nervous system derangement! That is hyperexcitability, belligerence, staggering and even convulsions.
Obviously not what you would want your horses to be eating. Since it occurs mainly on the seed head, it is vital not to let Paspalum seed in the spring and summer. Paspalum loves humidity.
If you cannot eliminate it completely or at least manage it so it doesn’t go to seed, then best to make the perimeter track and keep your horse on there.
Sometimes known as Reed Canary Grass – PHALARIS can harbour toxic alkaloids which cause a serious nervous syndrome and Phalaris staggers. Seasonal and weather patterns appear to affect alkaloid concentration, as most toxicity occurs in autumn and in times of drought. Regrowth after grazing or mowing also shows a considerable increase in alkaloids.
Often found on the edges of ditches and lakes. Best eliminated and certainly not to be sown.
Buttercups taking over your pasture is indicative of poor drainage. They are potentially harmful when they first grow but are no longer toxic after a hard frost or when dried in hay. The consumption of freshly growing buttercups may cause:
Perennial ryegrass toxicosis can be a serious and widespread problem in livestock grazing perennial ryegrass-dominant pastures during summer and autumn.
The toxin consists of a combination of chemicals:
Outbreaks of perennial ryegrass toxicity occur annually. They are most common in southern Victoria and Tasmania.
Paterson’s curse is a major pasture weed throughout southern Australiawhich now covers millions of hectares of land from WA to northern New South Wales. It is estimated to cost Australian sheep and cattle producers $250 million annually through lost productivity in pastures, control costs, and wool contamination.
Paterson’s curse is also known as Patterson’s curse, salvation Jane, blueweed, Lady Campbell weed or Riverina bluebell.
Paterson’s curse contains alkaloids that can cause chronic cumulative liver damage to livestock. This can lead to death, especially when consumed in large amounts over a prolonged period. Horses and pigs are highly susceptible to poisoning by Paterson’s curse. Cattle are moderately susceptible, while sheep and goats are only slightly susceptible.
Pimelea poisoning is potentially fatal for cattle but also affects sheep and horses. It is most common in south-west Queensland, north-west New South Wales and northern South Australia. It is also known as St. George disease, Marree disease, big-head and flaxweed poisoning.
Pimelea poisoning is caused by the ingestion of toxic varieties of the plant Pimelea such as native rice-flower, flaxweed and poverty weed varieties. In some cases, inhalation of plant dust can also cause poisoning.
St John’s wort (Hypericum spp.) is a serious perennial weed of pastures, catchments, forests and national parks in the high rainfall areas of southern Australia.
Livestock grazing St John’s wort can develop photosensitisation (light sensitivity) as a result of liver damage. This leads to low productivity and sometimes death.